The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Is the Trinity unintelligble nonsense?

Thanks for the response, Jason.

How is it logically coherent to suggest that one being can be three persons?

Hi, Sam

If you want a scholarly answer, go back and read some of Jason’s posts on the subject. They’re quite exhaustive (and exhausting for someone like me, whose mind is more like a painting than a beautiful work of logic!) But if you’re an intellectual type, you’ll probably follow them better than I do.

For me, the Trinity never worked (so I just didn’t think about it) until I realized that it is NOT three different manifestations of the same person. It is three PERSONS, but not three individuals. Think marriage. Think family. Think community. God is love. How could He be love if there was no one but Himself to love? The Godhead are so in tune with one another that they are quite literally One – yet they are three in one.

My favorite picture of this is one that God gave me on the way to work one summer morning. (And according to Paidion, who disbelieves the Trinity, I’m not the first to have seen this.) The sun was just coming up over the mountains in front of me, very bright, and I was thinking about the Trinity. And the thought came to me that Jesus is like the light of the sun. The light is NOT the sun, but it is what we can see of the sun and it is the precise and exact representation of the sun. The light goes out from the sun and is always going forth into the world. It is continually begotten of the sun.

The Holy Spirit is like the power of the sun and the conflux between the sun and the sunlight and other rays. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, and that is love; it is power. The sun’s love is its warmth, and its power is its heat (and other associated emanations) and while the warmth and the heat are one and the same, they are experienced with varying degrees of pleasure, discomfort, and outright pain. The effect on the subject depends on the subject’s ability to take in the sun’s rays without damage.

And of course that leaves the body of the sun – the burning explosion of power itself. This part is, in a sense, invisible. If it were not for the light, we couldn’t see it, and it is the light coming from it that we DO see. We don’t see the sun itself. You could say the same of everything we see. So to me, everything we see is in that sense a picture of the Trinity.

It takes a lot longer to explain this than it did to realize it or to see it. That happened in a moment. Like I said, if this is all rather to abstract for what you wanted, search back through and read some of the others’ explanations of (and against) the concept of the Trinity.

Blessings, Cindy

Two Premises (which Trinitarians claim are true):

  1. God is a Trinity of Three Persons.

  2. God was born on earth as a man.


Therefore the Trinity was born on the earth as a man.

Trinitarians do not accept the conclusion as true.


Two Premises (which Trinitarians claim are true):

  1. God is a Trinity of Three Persons.

  2. [The Second Person of] God was born on earth as a man.


Therefore the [Second Person of the] Trinity was born on the earth as a man.

Trinitarians do [not] not accept the conclusion as true.


(If you’re going to oppose us, at least oppose us on what we actually claim. There’s plenty enough to shoot at there without multiplying problems with claims we aren’t making. :wink: )

Hi Sam
It’s always useful to have a fresh mind look at an issue no matter how many times it has been discussed and so I welcome your thread.
As we’ve found on another thread it is essential from the outset to define our terms precisely before sensible discussion can begin.

What is your definition for ‘being’, and what is your definition for ‘person’ ?

Very very very very briefly: it has to do with the eternally active self-existence of God (instead of the eternally static existence of God–although many trinitarian Christians have historically gone with that instead, following the general lead of respected Greco-Roman philosophers, leading to severe coherency problems. Or more severe coherency problems, depending on how you look at it I guess. :mrgreen: )

Cindy and I have both recommended you look up my previously posted work on the topic, which can be easily found on-site at the link described in my signature. It’s a logically progressing metaphysic, so I don’t recommend you skip any chapters, but if you absolutely must jump over a bunch of important topics you could skip the chapters in Section Two (which arrive at theism of some kind–I gather you’re already a theist of some kind :wink: ) or I suppose even the chapters in Section One (the second longest in the book, which covers a bunch of important preliminary topics such as whether there can be multiple Independent Facts–the conclusion against which eliminates cosmological multi-theism as an option a long time before binitarianism and trinitarianism are introduced) and start at Section Three. I arrive at supernaturalistic binitarian theism in those chapters, over against naturalistic theism and supernaturalistic monopersonal theism, thus the section title “Creation and the Second Person”.

Pilgrim’s questions, posted while I was composing this, are good ones, too.


Very true about defining our terms. I’ll leave it to the Trinitarians to define the terms ‘person’ and ‘being’, since this is their jargon. I will note, however, that perhaps the only way their jargon can be meaningful is if the term ‘being’ is applied in a very loose sense to refer not to a sentient being, but to a nature or essence. But such would fall far short of meaning what the Trinitarians want it to mean.


I’m sorry, but all I saw when I looked back at your posts on this subject was excess verbiage that didn’t say much of anything. You should work on expressing your ideas more concisely and precisely.

I’ll take your advice to express my ideas more concisely and precisely on a super-complicated topic with tons of related subtopics (such as what “person” and “being” can and do most coherently mean) under consideration. :slight_smile:

Pilgrim’s questions shouldn’t be avoided though. If you claim trinitarian theism is incoherent, you’re going to have to have a coherent concept of person and being yourself to gauge the coherency or incoherency of ortho-trin by–as well as to judge the coherency or incoherency of your own theology of God by.

I can sympathize with not wanting to open that can of worms, as it would involve an excess of verbiage in order to consider the relative merits and demerits of various options (even concisely and precisely), and that would be a lot of work in proportion. But, well… :slight_smile:

As we use these terms (‘person’ and ‘being’) on a daily basis, it is nonsensical to suggest that one being can be three persons. A person is a sentient being.

As we use those terms on a daily basis to refer to human beings and/or other created entities (who have X set of characteristics), not the final ground of all existence (which has other characteristics, although also at least a few overlapping characteristics), comparing a claim about God’s characteristics to recognized limitations of derivative creature characteristics might very well be arguing from false analogy.

More detail is needed. Which is why I proceed by considering a bunch of things about God first (including whether we should conclude theism instead of atheism is true, including important characteristics of what it would mean for theism to be true instead of atheism) before arriving at an inference that God’s active self-existence necessarily implies the existence of more than one Person of the single substantial God.

So, what characteristics of theism do you accept, including in comparison and contrast to created persons? (I expect this is what Pilgrim was trying to suggest you start by discussing.)

I haven’t looked into this question nearly as much as others… I guess for me the question of what’s God’s character is like ultimately more important than what God’s ‘mechanics’ (if you want to put it that way) are like.

But as far as that goes, the nature of God, I know that God is Spirit, as the Bible says (and that fits with my own experience with God as well, and certainly makes loads of sense, even if it is frustrating at times not being able to literally see or hear or touch God)), but then when I hear that said I think about the ‘Holy Spirit’ and I’m like ‘so…um… is the Father Spirit too, and is Jesus Spirit too’ and ‘if God is Spirit in general, then is the Holy Spirit, er, Spirit in particular… what’s the difference’? :confused:
And then I know that Jesus was the Son of God, and then I’m like ‘so is Jesus the Son of God and God at the same time?’ :confused:
And who do I pray to? To the Father? To the Son? To the Holy Spirit? To God, who is Spirit in general? Does it even matter? :confused:

So yes, the Trinity is a bit confusing to me. However, I’ve heard some arguments for it, like Cindy’s, that make sense on some level, if nothing more than a symbolic and poetic level (which appeals to me, being a fan of symbolism and poetry).

I’ve also heard some anti-trinitarian arguments that made sense on some level as well, though I admit can’t recall them at the moment. :blush:

So when it comes down to it, at least for me, I’m honestly agnostic on the question of ‘the mechanics of God’.

I do believe there is some deep and mysterious connection between the Father, and the Christ, and the Holy Spirit, though what exactly that connection is I don’t know.

Also, as far as Christ in particular is concerned, I do believe that in some way he was (and still is, I should think), both human and divine… whether that means he was in some way God Himself or whether that means that he had God in him in a very special and totally unique way that no one else has ever had (or perhaps ever will have, at least not in this world), really I don’t know.
But I know Jesus was different, and, I might add, in a beautiful (and wild) way.

Another important point for me is the question of whether God shares in our experience, and even our pain.

I’ve heard thoughts expressed on both sides of this question, Trin and Anti-Trin, that take this into account, and take it seriously, which is good, but also that leaves me agnostic, and undecided on what view to stand by. :neutral_face:
If either side denied that God Himself shares in our experience and even in our pain, then I would have to reject it, if for no other reason then because I simply can’t put my trust in a God who doesn’t really understand how I feel…
But neither side or anyone in between seems to deny that reality, so there’s no deal-breaker there…

So I guess I’m at a loss on this one. :neutral_face:

But honestly, I don’t believe it’s something I really need to figure out anyway, at least not right now, unless God decides to show me how things really are…

I guess what I try to focus on, if I focus on anything at all, is God’s heart, which is also Christ’s heart… which is, ultimately, a heart filled with compassion. And that is beautiful to me, and something worth holding onto.

I know this probably doesn’t add much of anything to the discussion, as I’m pretty much sitting on the fence on this, but hey, figured I’d throw in my two cents. :wink:

Blessings to you all


Jason, do you know if there is a sort of Kaleidoscopian view of God? — that no one model is sufficient? A month or so ago, I was talking to a small group of Anarchists who consider the Biblical witness to teach trinitarianism, but prefer to withdraw from “reducing the mystery of God to a formula”. One believed that hard-trinitarianism was “heretical” — that trinitarianism was a kind of (biblical) theologoumena. Are you familiar with this approach? Or is this just typical of lay-people? I’m not suggesting that I hold that view entirely (I greatly dislike appeals to mystery and lean towards a humble unitarianism myself), but I do recognize the different values of each model. I appreciate that trinitarians speak of God as a loving community, that unitarians speak of Yeshua as an authentically Jewish human, and that the modalists speak of the humility of the Father. All three of which I find myself speaking of on regular occasion (even though they are incongruous).

Yes, and I can respect it, but there has to be limits to mystery (in the popular negative sense of things still unknown instead of the Biblical sense of secrets now revealed) and theologoumena (theological opinions instead of group-identification doctrines or dogma).

Otherwise we cannot be coherently believing anything, or coherently witnessing to people about anything.

As it is, one of the things I like about ortho-trin (and this was an important historical factor in its codification debates), is that it pulls together a bunch of otherwise different ideas about God and Christ and says, “Yes they’re all true and all important, and we’re trying to keep affirming as many of them as we can.” The one sufficient model (on this theory) includes as many of the other less detailed models as possible, so it is sort of kaledioscopian in that sense. This also explains why modalists and unitarians can each criticize nominal trinitarians for apparently collapsing into modalism and/or unitarianism (with each of them thinking a collapse either way proves their case both positively and negatively), especially when talking and thinking poetically and popularly instead of rigorously technically about God and Christ.

This is also one reason why I have sometimes said (including on the forum) that anything less than ortho-trin is less. Maybe less is true, but then ortho-trin is false for having too much in it: too much Christological and Pneumatological deity for unitarians (but not for modalists); too much real distinction between the Persons for modalists (but not for unitarians); too much humanity for docetists including some modalists (but not for strong affirmers of Christ’s humanity including most unitarians); too much deity for those who believe Christ was only human and/or less than monotheistically divine (but not for modalists); too much union of the two natures of Christ for some trinitarians (the Nestorians) who acknowledge the two natures but worry that the humanity threatens the divinity and the divinity the humanity if they aren’t separated more; too much affirmation of the two natures of Christ for some trinitarians (the Coptics and Ethiopians) who acknowledge the union of the two natures but who worry that the humanity threatens the divinity if it isn’t totally suppressed.

Orthodox trinitarian theism stands right in the middle of all of them, trying to affirm as much as possible on all sides without mistakenly affirming that all things proposable about God and/or Christ and/or the Spirit are true.

If it’s incoherent, it’s incoherent for trying to make too much peace with too many sides while still saying something distinctive instead of the mush of ‘everything’ being true. Much the same as universalism, if it’s incoherent, is incoherent for trying to make too much peace with too many sides. (And eventually fell into the mush with the so-called Unitarian Universalist congregation, who aren’t even dogmatically unitarian anymore.)

That’s why both groups are (in effect) called “katholic”. :smiley:

(It didn’t help that even the middle-ground “katholic” orthodox thought they had to bully people into taking the middle ground; but that was thanks to incorporating basic gnosticism tenets of salvation by doctrinal assent. :angry: )

I hope my being undecided on this doesn’t make me look like an idiot. :blush:

Honestly I just don’t feel as smart in an analytical way as some, and I don’t fully understand all the technical language that people throw out there when talking and debating about these things… :neutral_face:

I would just as soon believe that God is both a singular being, and somehow, at the same time, a communal being, who expresses Himself (to add, God in the Bible is usually expressed in a male sense, but of course that doesn’t exclude expression in a female sense… really I think God, being Spirit, technically has no gender, but, at the same time, also includes both genders, in a spiritual sense that is… yeah, I know, wild :laughing:) in many ways, though most focally and most powerfully through Jesus Christ (or Yeshua, as Andrew would say… I like that by the way :slight_smile:), and, by extension, through people, especially those who are imitating Christ in how they live and love…

And I can’t really put this all into technical language though (unless you consider the above statement technical), because I’m more of a poet (and I believe there is no shame in being poetic about these things, even if in being popular there is :laughing:) than a scientist in how I think generally…

Not to say that I’m incapable of thinking analytically or technically, but it’s just not my strong point. :neutral_face: I leave some things to mystery because I know I don’t have those things totally figured out, and I don’t believe anyone else does either…

And there are others who struggle with understanding things like this too, and probably feel as I do…

But honestly, I think that God cares far less about our having complete understanding about how His nature works exactly, about exactly how the Father relates to the Son relates to the Holy Spirit, and all of that, then about what’s in His heart, and what He’s really like…
I think He’d rather we have more complete understanding about how much He loves us, and how much we can trust Him…

Or at least that’s how I see it… but then that’s not to say that trying to understand the former has no importance because the latter has more…

And that’s not to say that I don’t respect or appreciate people who can think more analytically and technically, like yourself Jason. :slight_smile:
We need people who can think well analytically and technically… and hey, you write poetry too, so you’re doubly gifted and you’ve got best of both worlds. :wink:

Anyways, not sure if this contributes anything worthwhile to the discussion, but it’s just how I feel about it, and I think there’s a lot of others out there who feel this way too, people who honestly don’t care as much about how the nature of God works out mechanically as they do about whether or not their Creator loves them, and whether or not they can trust Him with their lives and their hearts…

Alright, that’s my two cents anyway…

Blessings to you, and peace :slight_smile:


There’s plenty of room for poetry, too, Matt. :smiley:

The most erotic chapter I wrote in CoJ features some quiet but important nods to trinitarian (or at least binitarian) theism in poetic form. But it’s such a large and detailed doctrine I can only nod at bits and pieces of it at a time, so to speak. (Plus in fiction I have to keep in mind that, depending on the circumstances, hardly any characters, if there are any, think even distantly in those terms. :wink: )

Would such poetics be considered unintelligible nonsense? I hope not (or else the poetry would make no sense and be possibly worse than useless!)–but I can sympathize with a person who has practical problems with the doctrine and especially doesn’t want to give (the wrong kind of…?) worship to the wrong person or entity. I don’t know why such a person would even dream of accepting any poetry from me no matter how pleasing it sounds or feels.

This is also why I would prefer someone not to accept ortho-trin unless they believe it to be true: I don’t want them to commit functional idolatry by religiously worshiping that (and/or those) which they do not believe to be the one and only God Most High. I would be the sinner for leading people to do that anyway, just as St. Paul would have been a Satanic level sinner (seducing people to sin as he puts it) to insist that people do what they think to be a sin even though he himself is assured it is not. (Eating meat sacrificed to idols in that case–and that’s a fairly minor example compared to worshiping less or else no less than Elohim Aechad Jehovah Adonai Most High!)

Quite agreed, which is why outside technical discussion I usually only bring up the Trinity in context of what I find and believe to be uniquely strong assurance that our Creator certainly does persistently love us–not only some of us, and not ever giving up on loving some of us–and that we can trust Him with our lives and hearts to competently continue to do so without being defeated by us or by other sinners against us.

And even my technical discussion has that end goal in view. (A long long lonnnnnnng away over the horizon view, sometimes. :mrgreen: But I found, and remember, where the path leads in the end. That’s why I became a Christian universalist to begin with!)

Thanks for your response, Jason :slight_smile:

I admit I haven’t studied the doctrine of the Trinity or the alternatives very much at all…
I guess it’s a question that hasn’t been as important to me as some others, so I haven’t focused on it as much, but maybe I should look into it more… :blush:
But then not everyone is the same, and some have more understanding of certain issues than others… like yourself for instance, you’re able to think more methodically about things like this, where I’d be far more likely to jump around from place to place, and maybe lose myself in the process. :laughing:

I’m glad though that you’re not insistent that others see things as you do, and that you take a humble approach with this. :slight_smile:
I don’t see you pulling a John Calvin on any Michael Severtus’ around here, and that’s a good thing. :wink: :laughing:

A good aim indeed. :slight_smile: The way I see it, if we can’t boil down our faith and our hope to something that even a three year old could understand, then maybe its just more intellectual jargon and theological semantics than it is something actually worth believing in and holding onto… not saying that there’s no good in really analyzing something and using our reason and logic and even employing scientific and philosophical language to explain it, but I think if it’s an issue that’s truly important for everyone and actually applies to everyone, then we would need to find ways to break it down and simplify it so pretty much everyone could make sense of it…

Not to say that the truth is never complex or many-faceted, but sometimes those who understand a thing inside and out are gonna have to ‘dumb it down’ for the sake of others… for alas, we are not all geniuses, or at least none of us are geniuses in all areas. :wink:

Like for example, I could boil universal reconciliation down to this:

God loves everyone and because of that He wants everyone to be okay; also, God can do anything that He wants to do, and there’s nothing that’s too hard for Him… so that means that everyone is gonna be okay in the end, because God wants that and can make it happen…

Sure, one could add a lot to that, or try to detract from it, or argue with it, debate about it… but I do think even a child could make some sense of it. :wink: And it’s certainly something worth believing in and holding onto, if you ask me :slight_smile:

Anyways, thanks for your kind response, Jason :slight_smile: Blessings to you :slight_smile:


Greetings again …

  Very interesting topic...   I am delighted that Jason mentioned Poetry.   

     I was thinking to get involved by suggesting to the other poster that I could present a case 
         involving the Trinity as satisfying aesthetic ART.

       When individuals wish to invoke Logic to determine whether or not something 
        is or is not unintelligble nonsense ... it reminds me of Sheldon in Big Bang Theory and their 
        round table discussions for many topics.

       I also write Poetry myself and even attempt to promote my poems written using Chinese as ART too...
       even though the word order, word choice, grammatical structure is woefully incorrect 
        pertaining to actual socio-cultural traditional Chinese poetry as written in the Tang dynasty.

        How people can easily walk into various Museums of Art or History in either HK (Hong Kong ) 
        Mainland China or even Taiwan ( which is an island for those who wish to engage me in the 
         who does Taiwan belong to ... )  and have the emotive reaction and response ... 
          that most of the Exhibits are unintelligble nonsense is way beyond my ability to comprehend.

         Chinese Calligraphy is Art ... and there was a recent Art Exhibition in HK which promoted 
          modern themes which included computer design, new age, post-modern and more traditional 
         forms of Art to express each Artist's imaginative skill by incorporating only 12 Chinese Characters...
          meaning that each Art exhibit would illustrate how the Artist would expand upon the famous 
         Chinese Calligrapher's original Art Exhibit showcasing it via 12 pieces of Chinese Calligraphy.

           I visited this Art Exhibition and took photos of those Artistic canvases that I could deeply
          appreciate and admire based on my own personal Artistic sense of well being or satisfaction .
           Some of the Exhibits certainly did not have enough elements to compel or influence me
          to take photos of them --- however, I did not consider these Artistic representations to be
            unintellible nonsense...  even though there was certainly powerful and brilliant Logical 
        design to each one .

          Chinese Art paintings are much more deeply appreciated by me than Picasso, Rembrandt
          or any other "Western"  Art .  Even though I consider Picasso to be bizzare to my Artistic
            sense or satisfaction -- I have deep admiration for the raison et ( forgot the French - 
          reason for being I think is the English )  that compels and propels Picasso to paint as he did. 
          Chinese instruments -- Guzheng, Guqin, Pipa, Dizi and Erhu are my favorite ....

          Ancient China up to the Ching Dynasty -- Classical Scholars ( if I remember correctly )
           needed to be exceptionally talented in Chinese Calligraphy, Chinese music and Martial Arts
           which blended with each other in aesthetic magificient Artistic performances.
            Which to many might seem to have unintellible nonsense from someone like Sheldon.

           Thus to me I can have profound keen insights with exceptional acuity in developing my 
            own personal proposal of the Trinity without worry or anxiety that it is unintellible nonsense
           to those who have a willingness to attempt to appreciate what I am trying to express 
              via my Artistic creative imagination .

            Now if there are those who wish to imitate Sheldon then I will have a jolly good time 
                of laughing at this situation .   The kind of Logic I have witnessed and observed 
               in forums, yahoo news comments, Through blogs supporting all ranges of political 
               candidates and issues --  concerning all kinds of social issues which have 
              small or large impact on daily living makes me amazed at how much diversity there is
                in which Logic is employed and utilized to influence others.

            This is also why I would prefer someone not to accept ortho-trin unless they believe it to be true: I don't want them to commit functional idolatry by religiously worshiping that (and/or those) which they do not believe to be the one and only God Most High   -- excellent suggestion by Jason ...

           The Trinity makes really intellible sense from an Aesthetic Artistic perspective which incorporates 
           a lot of logical reasoning as well...  The Cappadocian Fathers as well as other Early Church Fathers 
          were well trained in many ways including the current philosophical and literary setting ...
            Thus in my opinion Art is not separated from Logical Reasoning but incorporates and expands
            into a myriad of creative innovative ways seeking to express passionate thinking in new directions.

           but most likely Sheldon would never agree with me anyway ... 
                and I most likely would still feel he is acting in an unintellible nonsensical fashion 
              when he dumped the delicious french toast with alluring aroma ... into the garbage can 
                even though his own senses experienced the delicious french toast before on another day ... 

             logic has not helped me to understand China nor American socio-political environment in 
            which people have daily lives filled with consumeristic personal autonomous behavior 
                  seeking their own personal benefit ... 

             my creative imagination along with reasoning suggests to me ...
            that having an Egalitarian fellowship which seeks mutual benefit would greatly increased
               the qualitative living environment in which people would live in ..

         all the best ...
                     May the bountiful blessings of the Grand Dance at the Eschaton influence our daily lives 
                             in the here and now ...

I love the Trinity – the concept just feels right to me, aside from (I believe) being supported by the whole witness of scripture.

I see the Trinity throughout nature and symbolized in many places in scripture. I would agree that its beauty and artistic perfection also recommends it to consideration. Among many compelling images, the concept of God being love from and to all eternity (imo) absolutely depends on it, unless He is self-love.

But . . . as Jason says – to each his own best understanding with the help of the Holy Spirit. Father does not reject us because our theology is a bit off – or we’d all be toast.

Greetings !

      But . . . as Jason says -- to each his own best understanding with the help of the Holy Spirit. Father does not reject us because our theology is a bit off -- or we'd all be toast.

      Yes I certainly agree with this comment from both of you ..   <img src="/uploads/default/original/1X/15680453330e74f929b585a237613f0bdf61e069.gif" width="15" height="17" alt=":mrgreen:" title="Mr. Green"/> 

      So while I do have time these days ...  I will enjoy being here ... even though being an Egalitarian is 
     probably considered being more than a  "bit off" by the Hierarchical bunch of Trinitarians ...  
        ( which might include Jason  :laughing:  )

      I will try to share my Artistic view as much as possible since Jason has already presented 
        so many posts for the more ortho trad position for the Trinity .... :wink: 

      May the bountiful blessings flowing from the anticipation of participating within the Grand Dance at the Eschaton 
          continue to profoundly influence our minds, hearts and bodies through these coming days...